President Obama’s new Ocean Policy Task Force held a meeting in San Francisco today to seek input from the public on a plan to protect, maintain and restore American coastal waters.
The group’s final product will be the country’s first national ocean policy, which the task force says is long overdue.
Obama formed the interagency group in June and gave it 90 days to develop an initial plan for protecting U.S. coasts, oceans and the Great Lakes.
The plan is now being scrutinized in a 90-day public comment phase that includes six regional public meetings. San Francisco hosted the second meeting today.
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, task force member and administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at a news conference held prior to the meeting that the country’s previous policies were based on the mistaken world view that the oceans are boundless and infinitely resilient.
She said insufficient attention was paid to the importance of maintaining ecosystems.
“Americans want safe, healthy seafood, clean beaches, good jobs, abundant wildlife, vibrant coastal communities and clean energy,” she said. “That’s not what we have today.”
Lubchenco was joined by other task force members from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which chairs the task force.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi testified at today’s meeting about the importance of maintaining California’s 40-year moratorium on offshore drilling.
“The potential environmental and economic devastation of new oil and gas leasing to the eighth largest global economy is not worth the risk,” he said. “It completely contradicts California’s efforts to expand renewable and alternative energy resources.”
Garamendi chairs the California State Lands Committee and is a member of the California Ocean Protection Council.
One of the task force’s other main goals is to develop effective marine spatial planning, which representatives say becomes more important as more people use oceans and conflicts among users increase.
Spatial planning involves assessing competing pressures and creating a plan that will prevent habitat loss and resource depletion, Lubchenco said.
Task force members said this is one of the reasons it’s so important for federal agencies to work together and with local governments, nonprofits, universities and other groups.